Ewoks!

Back in September 1985, the Ewoks cartoon began, and it was a glorious time to be a child! Of course, I was a bit young at the time – I wasn’t yet one year old – but this cartoon was so much a part of my childhood that I couldn’t help celebrate it as my 500th blog!

The show deals with the adventures of Wicket and his friends and their adventures around the Endor forest, some time before the events of Return of the Jedi. Despite the fact that Wicket really steals the show in pretty much every episode, there’s a really nice ensemble feel with the rest of the characters we’re introduced to, a couple of whom do have prominent places in one or two episodes…

Ewoks cartoon

First of all, I only really liked the first series of 13 episodes, so I’ll only be rambling incoherently on them. The feel of the cartoon is much more, I dunno, cartoony than the second season, and it has that amazing bluesy theme song! There are a number of threats that the Ewoks have to overcome over the course of the series, primarily their cousins the Duloks, but also the more serious threat of Morag, the Tulgah Witch. The Duloks are a little silly at times, especially the O and X-marked pair, but this is pitched at little children, after all! If I’m honest, I don’t even find their capering all that goofy anymore, as it’s just all so nostalgic!

One of my favourite of the kind of story arcs in the season involves the travelling Jindas, who travel throughout Endor performing for the various inhabitants of the forest. I always had a soft spot for Latara, and as the episode kinda focused more on her, I suppose it was inevitable that I would like this episode best!

When I was little, I had recorded some of the episodes off the TV, but I was eternally sad that the VHS tape had run out before the end of The Curse of the Jindas, and from about the age of 5 or 6 until about three years ago, I had no idea how it actually ended! It clearly didn’t bother me too much as I hadn’t thought to look it up online, but still!

Ewoks cartoon

When I rewatched the series after scouring youtube during 2013, I was instantly transported back to my childhood, and so many wonderful memories of watching (and re-watching) these episodes came flooding back, it really was great!

The episode Sunstar vs Shadowstone was another all-time favourite – while having a soft spot for Latara, Teebo was my favourite, as I felt something of a kinship for his goofy attempts to fit in and impress the others. Well, anyway!

The cartoon is an amazing nostalgia trip, and is definitely worth checking out – not just for Star Wars fans, but I do feel it still holds up as a cartoon for kids of all ages!

500 posts

The Real Ghostbusters!

It’s time for some more Saturday morning cartoon nostalgia!

Back in the late 1980s, Columbia made a cartoon series based on the original film that ran to 140 episodes across two seasons, which always sounds a huge amount, but then something like He-Man had roughly the same number, so I guess it was something of a standard. As a fun fact, the cartoon was called “The Real Ghostbusters” because of a dispute with Filmation, the company behind He-Man, Brave Starr, and many others – Columbia actually had to license the name for the film in 1984, and it led to the storyline of the first episode (shown in the youtube video above) that shows a rival group of ghost hunters trying to steal the work of Egon, Ray, Peter and Winston.

Anyhow!

As much as I love the franchise, I have to say, I’ve never really found the same kind of love for the cartoon as I have for the film(s), even given my previously-mentioned toy obsession, the toys of course being directly made from the cartoon and not the movie.

Looking back, I don’t really remember any particular episode from the cartoon series, though I do have vague memories of watching the show as a child. For some odd reason, the clearest memory of the Real Ghostbusters was a book/audio tape combo called The Cabinet of Calamari, based off episode 63:

The cartoons are pretty goofy to watch them today, and while I’m a great apologist for a lot of this sort of stuff (check out my Ring Raiders, D&D and Visionaries blogs in this category!) I just can’t bring myself to watch these things without cringing a little! I mean, Slimer is the Ghostbusters’ pet, for heaven’s sake!!

It is worth mentioning that a few of the ghosts from the new Cryptozoic game have their origin in this cartoon series, including the Boogeyman and Samhain. There is a definite nostalgia value here, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing off to buy these on DVD any time soon…

Birthday Week Game Day Extra!

It’s birthday week here on spalanz.com, and time for a bit of game day extra, as I take a look at some more nostalgia from my childhood: The Real Ghostbusters: The Game!

Ghostbusters retro games

Oh, this one’s hilarious! Dating from 1989, the game is a tie-in to the cartoon series of the same name (more on that tomorrow!) You play one of the four Ghostbusters, or Janine or Slimer, and travel around the board trying to trap ghosts – once all the ghosts are trapped, the winner is the person who had the most.

Ghostbusters retro games

Along the way, there are mechanics for player interaction where you can attempt to “spook” your opponents – basically by playing rock/paper/scissors – to take their kit cards. Without all three pieces of kit (proton pack, proton gun, trap), you can’t trap ghosts and so cannot win the game. When you come to trap ghosts, the “bust-o-meter” is spun to determine the strength of your stream: if it’s higher than the ghost’s slime value (listed on the side of the board), you trap it. That’s pretty much all there is to it, though Action cards do allow you to interact with the game a little more, such as moving to ghosts to trap them etc.

I had this game from new, and seem to remember trying to get my brother to play it with me back in the day. I found it in the attic when I moved a few years ago, along with another awesome retro game that will be featured here no doubt eventually, and convinced my regular gaming buddy Tony to play, but it didn’t really stand up to the test of time.

Something I wasn’t all that impressed by was just how easy it is to knock somebody out of the game entirely, by winning just one round of rock/paper/scissors. Given your ability in the game is based entirely on something so arbitrary is just bizarre, I thought – it feels more luck-based than any kind of dice game, somehow! Maybe I’m just not good at rock/paper/scissors, though?

At any rate, it was fun to revisit the past, but I can’t say I’d recommend hunting down a copy on ebay anytime soon!

Ghostbusters!

Aw, yeah! You love it!

It’s birthday week here at spalanz.com, and I’m reliving another of my all-time favourite franchises: Ghostbusters! I’m almost as old as the original film, which is a bit of trivia that is partly meaningless, but grew up surrounded by it thanks to the sequel coming out at a time when all I wanted was to have lots and lots of toys. And my god, did this franchise deliver on that front!

I’m going to ramble inanely for a while now…

Ghostbusters retro toys

Ghostbusters is one of those films, like Beetlejuice and Masters of the Universe, that I used to love to watch repeatedly (driving the folks mental, no doubt), before then recreating the story with a vast horde of action figures. Between us, my brother and I must have had everything going for the range – which makes the above photo a sad memory in some respects, as it’s not the entire collection we had! Taking a look through all of those I still have in order to write this, however, has brought a lot of memories back, I have to say! Still upset my mum never let us have the goo that came with the fire station…

Ghostbusters

I love the first Ghostbusters movie, largely because, as a kid, I loved Slimer and thought he was the best. Not entirely sure why, but I just remember this as being a fact. I somehow never really registered this film as a comedy back in the day, I just remember all of the awesome action scenes as being amazing, and the “Saving the Day” sequence always used to excite me like nothing you’d know. I’m often surprised when I re-watch movies that were a big part of my childhood, as I find it hard to date them, as the quality or whatever is deeply ingrained so I gloss over any imperfections, much like I still don’t see Jabba the Hutt as a puppet. However, the special effects in this movie, considering it’s almost 32 years old, are still pretty great when you watch it now. Sure, some bits might be clunky, but that sequence with the paranormal energy zooming over the New York cityscape? Forget about it, that is just cinema at its finest!

Ghostbusters

The second film came out five years later, (a move that parallels Indiana Jones 2 and 3, just thought I’d point that out), and seemed somehow more subdued than the first one. While Gozer the Gozerian (still makes me laugh) is out to destroy the world, and would be a very serious threat if its chosen form hadn’t been a huge marshmallow, Vigo the Carpathian spends almost all of the film stuck in a painting, and barely manifests as a real person before his defeat. There’s a greater element of supernatural terror that comes from this, but I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel quite the same, I guess.

Ghostbusters II

The story still manages to have some wonderful moments – I love all the underground stuff, as I’m semi-fascinated with stuff like the history of disused underground systems like that. The walking Statue of Liberty is also a fantastic sequence that I find really exciting in the course of the movie. A lot of movie sequels are bad attempts to cash-in on the success of the first, but this one is definitely not that!

I love these films immeasurably, as they’re just enjoyable action adventure stories with a whole ton of comedy, not to mention the enormous nostalgia factor. That’s pretty much the entire substance of this blog, anyway, and makes me realise I don’t really have a point that I’m trying to make here.

So I’ll leave you with this picture of my original Ghostbusters toys…

Ghostbusters retro toys

Visionaries!

Hey everybody!
It’s Saturday morning, so it’s got to be time to remember another classic cartoon of the 80s! I started looking at some of these last year, with the D&D cartoon and the short series Ring Raiders. Today, it’s time for another of my all-time favourites – it’s Visionaries!

“Whispered secrets of a shattered age…”

The Visionaries cartoon was first shown towards the end of 1987, and features the ongoing conflicts between the Spectral Knights and the Darkling Lords. Set on the world of Prysmos, a formerly technologically-advanced world that suffered a near-apocalypse that set the world back into a dark age, the series begins as the wizard Merklynn instigates a heroic quest to imbue several champions with magical powers, seemingly so that he can make use of them when he feels the need. Several folks show up, and run the gauntlet of traps set up inside the Iron Mountain, though only fourteen survive. Merklynn rewards all those who survived with totem animals based on their personalities, as well as eight having magical staffs.

The champions split into those loyal to Leoric, the Spectral Knights, and those loyal to Darkstorm, the Darkling Lords. Most of the remaining twelve episodes deal with the Darkling Lords attempting to be generally evil, oppressing the population and trying to steal the powers of the Spectral Knights. Some of them also involve both factions doing some sort of strange work for Merklynn against his rival wizards.

visionaries

The cartoon was supported by a whole toy line, twelve of the fourteeen Visionaries were released, along with several vehicles. I remember having a lot of these as a child – well, my brother and I had quite the collection between us, anyway. One of my earliest childhood traumas actually involves a Visionaries figure. I think it was Cravex, I had the figure as a present when going on holiday to Barmouth in mid-Wales. Cravex’s totem animal was some kind of flying lizard thing (a phylot, in case you were wondering), and so it was crucial for whatever I was playing out for him to be thrown into the air. Well, he flew too high, and ended up on the roof of a caravan, and could well still be there to this day. Needless to say, it ruined both the holiday and my childhood, especially as I had his accoutrements to remind me of the debacle.

visionaries

The series is a lot of fun, when looked at from a nostalgic perspective. They’re by no means brilliant – indeed, pretty much everything here is a little hackneyed and whatnot, but for people like myself, having grown up on them and playing with the toys and whatnot, there’s still a lot to be enjoyed from these sorts of shows.

visionaries

“May the light shine forever!”

Masters of the Universe

Oh my goodness me, Masters of the Universe, people! My second-favourite film as a child (the first was Return of the Jedi), I absolutely love this film, 28 years after its initial release… Such fond memories!

The film follows He-Man and his friends Teela and Man-at-Arms as they battle the evil Skeletor for control of Eternia, opening somewhat in media res, with the forces of evil having secured a victory and occupying Castle Grayskull. The heroes discover that Skeletor’s forces were able to sneak into the castle with the help of a cosmic key, created by the inventor Gwildor. He-Man and his friends try to liberate the Sorceress, and the castle, but are forced to flee through a portal created by Gwildor’s prototype key, and are transported to Earth. There, they lose the key and must search to recover it, while Skeletor, obsessed with control, dispatches forces after them.

On Earth, the key is found by high-school musician Kevin, who is in the process of ending a relationship with his girlfriend Julie following the deaths of her parents. These two become embroiled in Skeletor’s search for the key, and after some heated battles, Skeletor himself comes to Earth to claim his prize – the key, and He-Man himself.

Gwildor, with Kevin’s help, manages to open a portal back to Eternia to rescue He-Man, just as Skeletor begins to merge his power with that of the Sorceress to become lord of all the land. The climactic battle between the two ends with Skeletor’s defeat, and Gwildor is able to send Kevin and Julie home to Earth, shortly before Julie’s parents were killed, leading to a happy end for all.

Masters of the Universe Skeletor

The film is often maligned – unfairly, in my view – for its production problems, where budget cuts led to placing the film on Earth for significant periods and the like, and also for its poor performance from Dolph Lundgren, whose He-Man was his first leading role. Personally, I don’t have a problem with him, whether that’s from nostalgia or not, I can’t really say. A contentious point, perhaps, but the film feels more of an ensemble effort, anyway, so doesn’t need to be carried by one person. Anyway.

Something that strikes me as I watch this film as an adult is just how subtle and brilliant the performances of Frank Langella (Skeletor) and Meg Foster (Evil Lyn) come across. Skeletor is of course something of a pantomime villain, though Langella’s performance transcends that through sheer commitment to the part. Meg Foster’s Evil Lyn is, quite possibly, the greatest role in the film, however – the subtext of lovelorn acolyte to Skeletor, to ruthlessly saving her own skin, works tremendously well, and serves to add depth to the villains. Plus… those eyes!

Masters of the Universe

Of course, it’s not a perfect movie, no matter how impressive that throne room set is (the largest in Hollywood since Cleopatra, I believe). There are some very wonky bits, and some of the effects (air centurions spring to mind) don’t really hold up anymore. Not to mention, we have to wait a full hour and a half before He-Man even says the iconic line:

But sit back, let the 80s awesome take you, and enjoy the adventure! It might well be camp, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still fun!

Buy it on amazon here!

Ring Raiders!

Hey everybody!

Following my blog post for D&D week on the cartoon series, I’ve been feeling very much in a nostalgic mood – so much so, in fact, that I’ve made a new category! Just how often this will get posted in will remain to be seen, obviously, but anyway!

In the vein of early-Saturday-morning cartoons, then, I hope you all enjoy this little bit of nostalgia!

Ring Raider

Ring Raiders were a toy line from the 1980s, that were expounded upon with five cartoon episodes that never managed to make it into a full series. I had the first episode, Ring of Fire, on VHS as a child, along with some of the toys and – I seem to remember – an annual, which was released following the cartoon series in 1990.

Looking back, Ring Raiders was quite probably my first geekdom. I mean, I knew the script for that episode like the back of my hand; my six-year-old self lived and breathed this stuff!

So sit back, and enjoy some cartoons…when 1998 seemed like so far away…

The command is in your hand!